Netanyahu to directly address Iran’s supreme leader in UN speech
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Liberman praises settlement building, rejects illegal outposts

Defense minister says construction in West Bank at highest since 2000

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman meets with settler leaders in the Dead Sea region on September 17, 2017 (Ariel Harmoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman meets with settler leaders in the Dead Sea region on September 17, 2017 (Ariel Harmoni/Defense Ministry)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s developments as they unfolded.

Iran supreme leader pledges response to nuclear deal changes

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warns that the Islamic Republic will respond to any “wrong move” by the US on the nuclear deal.

“The Iranian nation has stood firmly and any wrong move by the hegemonic system on the JCPOA would draw a reaction from the Islamic Republic,” he says, according to the Iranian Press TV.

On Twitter, the Iranian supreme leader also lashes out at US “viciousness.”

“Every day US govt. exposes a new side of its viciousness & proves Imam Khomeini’s words true: US govt. is the great Satan,” he writes.

The nuclear deal under former US president Barack Obama saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. US President Donald Trump has said he wants to renegotiate it.

 with AP

Heading to NY, Iran’s president ‘invites’ the US to dinner

Iran’s president says he is “inviting” the US to dinner as he heads to New York for the UN General Assembly.

President Hassan Rouhani uses an analogy of a dinner party on Sunday to describe how countries are benefiting from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Rouhani describes the Americans as “sitting in another room” at the party.

Rouhani says: “They can adopt a new path and come to the room where the dinner table is. That’s alright in our opinion. If they change their bad temper they can enjoy the dinner table.”

AP

German architect Speer, son of top Nazi, dead at 83

One of Germany’s most prominent architects and urban planners of the post-war period, Albert Speer junior, died aged 83, local media reports Sunday.

His death late Friday came after an operation on a broken hip sustained in a fall at his home in the western city of Frankfurt, Bild daily reports.

Speer was widely credited with honestly reckoning with the heavy historical burden left by his father and namesake — one of Adolf Hitler’s closest confidants and the head of the vast Nazi armaments ministry.

Born in Berlin as the eldest of six children, Albert junior managed to emerge from his father’s shadow to become known for ecologically sustainable public works projects across Europe, Asia and Africa.

AFP

Albert Speer in Marcel Ophuls’ documentary ‘The Memory of Justice.’ (Courtesy HBO)

Khamenei blasts ‘totally oppressive’ US

Iran’s supreme leader continues his Twitter rant against the US, writing that Washington’s “attitudes towards talks & their outcomes are totally oppressive, hounding and cruel,” in reference to the nuclear deal.

He says “bullying” will not sway Iran.

Khamenei says ‘corrupt, lying’ US are ‘the liars’

Khamenei is now accusing the “lying” US of being “the liars” in accusing the Islamic Republic of lying.

“Corrupt, lying US officials blatantly accuse Iran of lying. They are the liars who allow fulfillment of illegitimate interests at any cost,” writes the supreme leader on Twitter.

London police search home of elderly foster parents in bomb probe

The property being searched by counter-terrorism police investigating the London subway bombing belongs to an elderly couple who have for years taken in foster children.

Ronald Jones, 88, and his wife Penelope Jones, 71, have been honored by Queen Elizabeth II for their work with children in need of a stable home.

They are reported to be staying with friends while the search continued Sunday in the suburban town of Sunbury southwest of London.

Police have not provided details about the extensive search, which began two hours after an 18-year-old suspect in the subway bombing was arrested at Dover’s ferry port.

A friend, Alison Griffiths, says they are “great pillars of the community” who have taken in several hundred children in the last 40 years.

The entire neighborhood around their house was evacuated as a precaution when the search began Saturday. Residents were allowed to return home Sunday but the Jones’ house remains cordoned off.

AP

Uproar in Turkey over removing evolution from biology class

Students in Turkey are returning to school where they will be taught evolution for the last time in their biology classes. Next fall, evolution and Charles Darwin will be scrapped from their textbooks.

Turkey has announced an overhaul of more than 170 topics in the country’s school curriculum, including removing all direct references to evolution from biology classes.

Education Minister Ismet Yilmaz says the new “value-based” curriculum would teach evolutionary mechanisms such as natural selection but evolution itself was too advanced for high school and would not be taught until college.

The upcoming changes have caused an uproar, with critics calling them a reshaping of education along the conservative, Islam-oriented government’s line. Some biologists say the move will leave Turkish students unable to understand even basic science.

AP

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox protest IDF draft in Jerusalem

Several hundred ultra-Orthodox Jews demonstrate in Jerusalem against a court ruling last week that rejected Knesset legislation deferring the mandatory conscription of Haredim into the Israel Defense Forces.

The demonstration in Mea She’arim, an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of the city, is organized by the hardline group Eda Haredit.

Rabbis give speeches in Yiddish, while a banner reads: “We’re Jews and therefore will not enlist in the Zionist army.”

Last week’s Supreme Court decision struck down a law exempting ultra-Orthodox men engaged in religious study from military service, saying it undermines equality.

The court suspended its decision for one year to allow for preparations for the new arrangement — which also provides the government with the opportunity to pass a new law. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox coalition partners were expected to introduce fresh legislation to bypass the court decision.

 with AFP

Russia denies claim of airstrike on US-backed Syrian force

A Russian military spokesman is denying claims that a Russian airstrike wounded six fighters from a US-backed opposition force in Syria.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said Saturday that its fighters had been hit in the airstrike near the eastern city of Deir el-Zour in an area that recently had been liberated from the Islamic State group.

Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov denies the claim Sunday, saying that “Russian air forces carry out pinpoint strikes only on IS targets that have been observed and confirmed through several channels,” according to state news agency TASS.

AP

Only one person still hospitalized after London bombing

Britain’s National Health Service says all but one of the people wounded in the subway bombing attack have been released from the hospital.

The health service says Sunday that one person is still being treated at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, which has a special unit for treating burns.

Officials raise the total number of people injured Friday by the partial detonation of a bomb on the subway train and the stampede that followed to 30. That includes 19 people taken from the explosion site to hospitals and 11 others who came in for treatment on their own.

Many of the injuries were reported to be burns.

AP

An injured woman is assisted by a police officer close to Parsons Green station in west London after an explosion on a packed London Underground train, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. London’s Metropolitan Police says a fire on the London subway has been declared a “terrorist incident.” (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)

2 ultra-Orthodox protesters arrested in Jerusalem

Police say dozens of ultra-Orthodox protesters are blocking roads in Jerusalem.

The demonstrators are sitting on Sarei Israel street in the capital, holding up traffic, police say.

Two protesters are arrested for blocking traffic and attacking police.

Trump, South Korean leader discuss North Korea, ‘Rocket Man’

US President Donald Trump says he and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have discussed North Korea in their latest call.

And Trump tweets that he’s asked Moon about “Rocket Man” — an apparent reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea has launched a trio of missiles in recent weeks and tested a bomb that was its most powerful to date.

Trump also says long gas lines are forming in North Korea, calling it “too bad.” New UN sanctions cut oil exports to North Korea.

The White House says Trump and Moon are committed to continuing to take steps to strengthen deterrence and defense capabilities, and maximize economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea. They plan to meet this week at the UN General Assembly.

AP

4 US tourists attacked with acid in Marseille

The Marseille prosecutor’s office says four young female US tourists were attacked with acid in Marseille’s main train station by a woman who has been arrested.

A spokeswoman for the prosecutor office tells The Associated Press that two of the tourists have been injured in the face in the attack Sunday in the Saint Charles train station and one of them has a possible eye injury. She says all four of the tourists, who are in their 20s, have been hospitalized, two of them for shock.

She did not have any more details and spoke on condition of anonymity, per the French judicial system.

There was no immediate information on where the US tourists were from.

Marseille is a port city in southern France that is closer to Barcelona than Paris.

AP

8 ultra-Orthodox demonstrators arrested in Jerusalem

The number of Haredi protesters arrested by police at a Jerusalem rally rises to eight.

Police say some demonstrators threw stones, while others blocked roads.

The protest is held over the arrest of a relative of a prominent rabbi who did not appear for a draft summons, Channel 2 reports.

Video from rally shows cop violently shoving protester

A video clip from the anti-draft protest in Jerusalem shows a police officer slamming an ultra-Orthodox protester to the ground, apparently unprovoked.

IDF to test rocket siren in Jerusalem suburb tomorrow

The IDF says it will test the incoming rocket alert sirens in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion on Monday morning.

At 11:05 a.m., sirens will sound in the town and likely in the nearby communities of Beit Nekofa and Motza Illit, the army says.

In the event of a real rocket launch, the sirens will sound twice.

The IDF says the test is part of the military’s regular training schedule and is meant to maintain the “fitness and readiness of the troops.”

Judah Ari Gross

Haley: North Korea will be ‘destroyed’ if ‘reckless’ behavior persists

America’s ambassador to the United Nations is raising the prospect of US military action against North Korea if the North continues its missile and nuclear tests.

Nikki Haley says North Korea will be “destroyed” if it continues with what she describes as “reckless” behavior.

Haley tells CNN’s “State of the Union” that the UN Security Council has basically exhausted its diplomatic options for dealing with North Korea.

If diplomacy fails, she says Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “will take care of it.”

North Korea will be high on the agenda during the UN General Assembly session in New York this coming week.

Haley says President Donald Trump’s “fire and fury” threat against North Korea wasn’t an empty threat. She says war is undesirable but adds that “something has got to be done” if North Korea continues to threaten the US and its allies.

AP

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley testifies during a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill onJune 28, 2017. (Alex Wong/Getty Images via JTA)

UK downgrades terror alert from ‘critical’ to ‘severe’

Britain has downgraded its terrorism threat level to severe from critical, two days after a bombing in a London Underground train injured 30 people, Home Secretary Amber Rudd says Sunday.

“The Joint Terrorist Analysis Centre, which reviews the threat level that the UK is under, have decided to lower that level from critical to severe,” Rudd says in a televised statement.

AFP

Iraq VP warns against ‘second Israel’ in Kurdistan

An Iraqi vice president warns Sunday that Baghdad would not tolerate the creation of “a second Israel” after the Jewish state became the only country to support a planned Kurdish independence referendum in northern Iraq.

The leaders of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan must “call off the (September 25) referendum that is contrary to the constitution and does not serve the general interests of the Iraqi people, not even the particular interests of the Kurds,” said Vice President Nuri al-Maliki.

“We will not allow the creation of a second Israel in the north of Iraq,” Maliki, a Shiite former prime minister, says at a meeting with US ambassador Douglas Silliman, in a statement released by the vice president’s office.

A country set up on a religious or ethnic base, like the Jewish state established in 1948, would not be acceptable, Maliki says.

He warns that an independence vote would have “dangerous consequences for the security, sovereignty and unity of Iraq,” and calls for dialogue between Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government in the northern city of Erbil.

As opposed to Muslim countries in the region as well as the United States and Western allies, Israel has come out in apparent support of the referendum.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backed the Kurds’ aspirations for a state of their own, without specifically referring to the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

AFP

US considers closing Havana embassy after mystery ‘health attacks’

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the Trump administration is considering closing down the US Embassy in Havana following unexplained incidents harming the health of American diplomats.

Tillerson says “we have it under evaluation” and that shuttering the embassy is “under review.” He says the issue is “very serious” regarding the harm some individuals have suffered.

Tillerson notes that the State Department has brought home some of the people affected.

At least 21 Americans have been medically confirmed to have suffered harm in Havana. Tillerson previously called it “health attacks” but the State Department now prefers to call them “incidents.” The cause and culprit haven’t been determined.

Tillerson spoke on CBS’s “Face the Nation” ahead of US President Donald Trump’s trip to the UN General Assembly this coming week.

AP

Police to look into claims of brutality at Jerusalem rally

Police say they will investigate claims of excessive force against ultra-Orthodox protesters in Jerusalem, after dramatic footage emerges of police officers kicking and punching demonstrators on the ground.

Netanyahu to directly address Iran’s supreme leader in UN speech

NEW YORK — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will for the first time directly address Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei in his upcoming speech to the United Nations General Assembly, senior Israeli sources say.

Netanyahu’s speech, scheduled for Tuesday 8:00 p.m. Israel time, will focus on Iran and be shorter than in previous years, the sources say.

Israel’s opposition to Iran’s entrenchment in the Golan Heights in the framework of an agreement on the Syrian civil war is going to take center stage at Netanyahu’s UN speech, he said Friday.

Raphael Ahren

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 71st session of United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York on September 22, 2016. (AFP/Jewel Samad)

Iran warns Iraq Kurds independence means end to border deals

Iran warns on Sunday that independence for Iraqi Kurdistan would mean an end to all border and security arrangements with the regional government.

“Border agreements stand only with the central government of Iraq, and secession of Kurdistan region from the central government of Iraq would mean the blocking of all shared border crossings,” Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, tells the state broadcaster IRIB.

“The secession of the Kurdistan region from Iraq’s territory would be the end of security and military agreements between Iran and the Kurdistan region,” he adds.

The leaders of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region are set to hold a referendum on independence on September 25.

Although the referendum would not be legally binding, Shamkhani said that any move towards independence could lead to Iran disregarding rules of engagement along the border.

“Iran would then prepare itself to enter areas deeper than the border in response to anti-security actions,” he says, referring to regular attacks by Iran’s own Kurdish separatists based in Iraqi territory.

Tehran, which has worked closely with Kurdish peshmerga forces in Iraq against the Islamic State group, fears the independence movement could encourage separatists among its own Kurdish population.

AFP

Mossad chief reportedly directing hard-line Israel position on Iran

Mossad chief Yossi Cohen is leading Israel’s “hawkish line” on Iran, calling for immediate action to ensure that Tehran cannot attain the bomb, an Israeli TV report says.

Channel 2 on Sunday paraphrases Cohen as asserting: “Today’s Iran is the North Korea of yesterday, and so we need to act now so that we don’t wake up to (an Iranian) bomb.”

Other Israeli security officials, the report says, however, are warning that Israel should not be pushing the US into another Middle Eastern conflict, given what happened when the US tackled Iraq and Saddam’s ostensible weapons of mass destruction over a decade ago.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu toasts outgoing director of Mossad Tamir Pardo (L) and his successor Yossi Cohen, at a ceremony in Tel Aviv, on January 6, 2016. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

16-year-old Haredi protester moderately injured in clashes with police

A 16-year-old ultra-Orthodox teenager is moderately injured in clashes with police in Jerusalem.

He is admitted to the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital with a head wound and internal bleeding, the hospital says.

A second teenage protester, 17, at a demonstration against the arrest of the relative of a prominent rabbi for avoiding the military draft, is treated for light injuries.

Israeli security forces remove ultra-Orthodox Jewish demonstrators from the road in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem on September 17, 2017, as they protest against a court ruling that could require them to serve in the army like their secular counterparts. The demonstration was organized by a particularly hardline group known as Eda Haredit. (AFP PHOTO / Ahmad GHARABLI)

French officials don’t suspect terror in acid attack

French authorities are not investigating the acid attack on four American women in the southern city of Marseille as an act of terrorism for the time being.

The Paris prosecutor’s office says that its counter-terrorism division has not assumed jurisdiction for the attack at Marseille’s main train station on Sunday morning. The prosecutor’s office has responsibility for all terror-related cases in France.

A spokeswoman for Marseille’s prosecutor said earlier that the 41-year-old woman arrested as a suspect in the attack did not make any extremist declarations, but said officials couldn’t rule out terror as a motive so early in the investigation.

Regional newspaper La Provence, quoting unidentified police officials, reported that the suspect had a history of mental health problems and didn’t try to flee the site of the attack.

The Marseille fire department says two of the tourists were slightly injured.

AP

Liberman praises settlement building, rejects illegal outposts

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman says settlement building is at its highest since 2000.

Speaking to settler leaders in the West Bank during a pre-Rosh Hashanah event, Liberman says the settlements are flourishing, “from granting municipal powers to the Jewish community in Hebron and through building at a rate that has not existed since 2000.”

He says the government has approved 3,500 building tenders and another 7,500-8,000 housing units are in various stages of planning.

Praising the settlements as Israel’s “protective wall,” the defense minister also warns against building illegal outposts and defends the Civil Administration.

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Netanyahu to directly address Iran’s supreme leader in UN speech

NEW YORK — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will for the first time directly address Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei in his upcoming speech to the United Nations General Assembly, senior Israeli sources say.

Netanyahu’s speech, scheduled for Tuesday 8:00 p.m. Israel time, will focus on Iran and be shorter than in previous years, the sources say.

Israel’s opposition to Iran’s entrenchment in the Golan Heights in the framework of an agreement on the Syrian civil war is going to take center stage at Netanyahu’s UN speech, he said Friday.

Raphael Ahren

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 71st session of United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York on September 22, 2016. (AFP/Jewel Samad)